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Learning loss program seeing success

The Western News | November 19, 2021 7:00 AM

Libby Elementary School educators are seeing early success with an after school program designed to address learning loss caused by classroom closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Administrators have seen 33 second and third grade students sign up for the 20-week program. The intervention effort offers extra hours of instruction three times a week after school, according to Principal Jeanine Kidwell.

“The kids are really excited to be there,” Kidwell told school board members on Nov. 8. “I was popping in and out of some classrooms today and the energy is good, the focus is great and they’re really doing work after school that is amazing.”

After Libby Public Schools halted in-person instruction at the start of the pandemic, administrators determined the shift would have the greatest effect on students who were then in kindergarten and first grade. The data school officials gathered over the past year and a half confirmed the hunch.

The after school intervention program uses a system known as Systematic Instruction in Phonological Awareness, Phonics and Sight Words or SIPPS to guide students. The program showed promise during summer school instruction.

Interventionists have sorted the first round of after school students into five groups of six to seven pupils. Educators relied on SIPPS scores when determining how to place the students. To maximize the impact of the intervention, administrators will cycle students in and out of the program based on their progress.

Since starting the program on Nov. 1, Kidwell has seen strong support from parents.

“Families have been very receptive and appreciative of the help,” she said.

School officials organized transportation and drop-off zones to assist students in getting to and from school after hours.

Administrators are relying on federal coronavirus relief dollars to fund learning loss programs. The district received $4.25 million in second and third round allocations of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER). School officials must set aside 20 percent of these monies to address pandemic-related gaps in education.

The district has received an additional $379,116 from the first round of ESSER funding and $627,000 in Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars since the start of the pandemic.